Sprint or Marathon

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.

1 Corinthians 9:24-27

In this race of life, what are you – a sprinter or a marathoner?

This thought was triggered by something I was reading recently. I’d never really considered that the attitudes of the two were different. (I’m not a runner, could you have guessed that?) I started comparing and contrasting the two and how that applied to life. It’s interesting, If you google “sprinters habits” and marathoners habits” you get some thought provoking info.

A sprint is a short race you run at full speed. You go all out and give it everything you got. A marathon, on the other hand, being a footrace of over 26 miles, requires exceptional endurance rather than a short burst of speed. These two types of races require different training, different amounts of time, different settings, and a different mental focus.

According to speedendurance.com, the sprinter’s motto is “If you don’t have to run, walk. I you don’t have to walk, sit. If you don’t have to sit, then lie down.” This sounds like a good motto to me! But let’s examine how that works in life. It really sets up a life of doing only what you must do – the urgent. You may wake up, sprint to get ready for work, then get to the office and sit thinking “What’s next?” A sprinting-through-life mindset is full of stops and starts, short races to get one task at a time done throughout our day. Sprinting takes short bouts of focused attention. Sprinters may run many, many miles if you add up all their short races put together, but their races are round and round the track, and they end up at the same place at the end of the day.

Marathoners, by the nature of the race, have to be just the opposite of this. Their race takes endurance and perseverance. They also need periods of rest after a race allowing the body time to recover and repair, but theirs mindset is one of being in it for the long haul. They must exercise great mental self-control to keep their focus throughout the hours of a race. No stops and starts and resting every few minutes for them. When the going gets long, tough, and painful, marathoners must exercise not only their muscles, but their minds in order to power through to the end, which is miles away and takes them to whole new places.

So how does running races apply to the average person, to you and me? You’ve probably already picked up on some ideas you can apply to your life, but here are mine.

  1. Goals and focus are important. Years ago a study by a major college found that students who wrote down their goals out-performed those who did not. Baseball legend, Yogi Berra, once said “If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up someplace else.” As we run this race of life that the apostle Paul talks about, are we running toward the right goal? A marathon runner can run his 26 miles in wrong directions and never finish his race. A sprinter can give it all he’s got and be the fastest one on the track but loose the race if He runs toward the wrong goal. So I ask you today, what goal are your eyes fixed upon? Is it getting that new house? Nothing wrong with a new house, but should that be the ultimate goal we are running toward in life? Is it beauty? Or wealth? Or physical health? Or friendships? Or jobs? All these things have a place in life if they do to capture our sole focus in this race.
  2. Focus on the right things. So what are the right things to focus our attention on? We turn to God’s Word to find those things. Salvation. Faith. A relationship with the Father. Love of God and our fellow man. Family. The Body of Christ. Obedience to God’s commands. … And I’m sure the list is longer than I can develop here. Stay in God’s Word and seek the things He would have your life be focused upon. “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:33)
  3. Exercise mental self-discipline. Often we are sidetracked in our life by faulty thinking. The arrows of the enemy shoot lies into our minds. Our prideful heart deceives us with good-sounding thoughts that when examined are contrary to what scripture teaches. Our own inner self-doubt makes us distracted and undermines our confidence in the Father that He will empower us to accomplish all He has called us to do. Let’s exercise self-control not only in body by in our mindset too. Let’s throw off the negative, untrue, prideful, doubting thinking that weighs us down so that we can really run this race. Hebrews 12:1-2 tells us “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
  4. Pace yourself. Americans in general have a I-can-do-it-all attitude. Add one more thing to your already full plate? Sure! why not? One thing we need to learn is how to say “no.” We spend so much energy doing good things, that we have depleted energy for accomplishing the goal of our life. We must learn to pace ourselves – to weed out those good distractions and time-wasters in order to fulfill God’s purposes and calling on our lives. A marathoner doesn’t stop to eat lunch or text their boyfriend; they put distractions aside in order to finish the race even though it is long an arduous. Let’s “run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” (Hebrews 12:1)
  5. Life is not a race to win or lose. You’ve probably heard the phrase, “The one who dies with the most toys, still dies.” But how often do we operate in life as if we have to have the most, go to the best vacations, achieve the highest goals, and be the best? We’re not on this earth to compete or to win, we are here to “glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” (The Shorter Catechism) THE highest goal we can ever achieve is to live our lives in a way that pleases God, whatever He calls us to do. In Galatians 2:2 Paul makes a comment that shows us even he evaluated his motives in this race of life. He said, “I wanted to be sure I was not running and had not been running my race in vain.” Are you running your race in vain? Let’s get alone with God and do a little self-evaluation.
  6. Be faithful – commit to your life race. In 2 Timothy 4:7-8 Paul presents the attitude we need to embrace to stay committed to the race and finish strong. He states that when he dies he wants to be able to say with confidence, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.”

A marathon is long and difficult and takes more than just physical strength. Let’s start living like marathon runners, running our lives for a single goal that takes all our time, energy, focus, and patience to achieve. While we may have short sprints within our marathon, let’s make sure our long-team purpose is to finish this race well and be able to echo Paul’s words – “I have finished the race – I have kept the faith.” Persevere ladies! And encourage others to do the same. Get your running shoes on, let’s run for the prize!

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